Health Minister Greg Hunt has downplayed concerns about the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after South Africa paused its rollout due to efficacy concerns.
The Morrison government has backed the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine despite concerns it is not effective in combating a concerning ‘mutant’ strain.
South Africa suspended its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the country’s new strain of the virus.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has downplayed concerns, citing the latest UK data.
“There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“That is the fundamental task to protect the health of not just Australians, but people all around the world.”
Greg Hunt, Health Minister
What’s going on?
AstraZeneca is currently working with developers at Oxford University to try to adapt the vaccine to the South African strain, but the process could take several months.
Australia is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine within weeks and has more than 50 million doses on order, with the vast majority to be produced locally.
Australians will receive a certificate to prove they have been vaccinated when the national rollout begins.
Certificates proving vaccination, which could be required for overseas and interstate travel, would then be available either digitally or as a hard copy.
The vaccine & international travel
It’s expected that in order to travel, passengers will have to show proof of vaccinations and negative COVID-19 test results to airlines and continue to check-in to aid track and tracing.
Last month, we were told that international travel would not return until at least 2022 – with the exception of safe travel bubbles.
However, last week on a Facebook live feed, Brendan Murphy, the Health Department Secretary said international border reopenings could depend on the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“If, as we suspect these vaccines are effective at preventing transmission, the sooner we get the population vaccinated, the sooner people — not only will they be protected, but we will get on this path towards good herd immunity, and that will speed up the return to international travel,”
Brendan Murphy, Health Department Secretary
Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated that the reopening of international borders depended on the vaccine’s success at stopping community transmission.
He said it had the potential to be “quite a game-changer” – but we’ll have to sight tight, wait and see.
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